Review by Hawk Eye
Ported Legend, Flaws and All
Back in the late 80's in the "Dark Ages", Nintendo released one shining gem into the world that set the bar extremely high for all others to match in the making of future games. The Legend of Zelda, put simply, was amazing. Great gameplay, music and graphics; for its time. Now that it has been over a decade since its original release, does the GBA port necessitate a purchase, or is the game merely an old man sitting on a porch thinking wistfully of days gone by, when gamers used to be excited over the mere inclusion of a save feature.
Truth be told, a revamp along the lines of Metroid to Metroid: Zero Mission wouldn't have been too bad; in fact, it would have been awesome. A polished story line, reworked sprites and improved sound. All would have made a near perfect remake. This isn't a remake though, but rather part of Nintendo's new Classic Port selection. So what you...saw...is what you get, flaws and all. Sadly, such an ideal remake probably never will eventualate, and so we'll have to settle for port after port after port in the meantime.
Old fashioned fun. I'm not going to lie, those who have played The Legend of Zelda as an original NES title are going to have considerable more enjoyment then new players for the most part, given the heavy nostalgia factor of the Classic NES series. You play as Link and make your way across the land of Hyrule in search of Triforce fragments. Conveniently, one piece of Triforce is stashed away in each dungeon, and so the larger portion of the game takes place in Hyrule's underworld, battling various evils. It offers little in terms of something new, but think of it as if you were learning Latin. The language itself is pretty much useless, yet it forms the foundation for future dialects. In that same way, The Legend of Zelda has the style that many games would be destined to follow. In that respect, there is nothing wrong as such, merely just leaning towards being tired.
You have a rather minimal selection of weapons and items, of which you will find various uses besides just hacking an enemy to death. Of course, the traditional sword will be your main choice of attack for the game, even managing to shoot sword beams out when you have reached full health to attack enemies at long range without having to resort to other weapons, such as the Bow and Arrow. Most fights will provide some challenge and sense of fun, regardless of what weapon you end up using. Dungeon puzzles are rather limited in their design, and most come down to pushing a block or blasting away a wall. The main puzzle itself is navigating through the maze-like rooms, slaying the odd crowd of enemies as you make your way to the ultimate treasure; a Triforce Piece, which is expectantly being guarded by a boss. The overworld varies more in what is offered, and is quite nice to just walk around in. Sadly, the map in the corner of the screen is of no immediate use, given that you are a green dot on an entirely black square. A little detail wouldn't have gone astray, but in exchange, players are able to recount in great memory exactly where everything is without access to the game, adding much nostalgia.
One main problem that can be identified is the struggle to retain bombs. You can only collect a very small amount to begin with (and even come the end of the game, the final amount is still rather restrictive), and the bombs are pretty crucial for locating hidden rooms in dungeons, as well as the numerous caves dotted about the over world. There is no way to identify where these holes exist, not so much as a tiny crack in the wall, or a stone out of place. Essentially, find any old wall then spend a minute bombing a steady line, and then spend the next hour accumulating enough rupees to purchase more bombs to continue the process. It's a small problem that can easily be rectified with a FAQ, but such avenues really shouldn't be necessary. The Arrows work considerably better than bombs, oddly enough taking up a unit of currency with each fire.
Enemies range from being a simple affair to being tediously annoying. Bosses follow in the same fashion, although it's not like a learning curve properly exists with the bosses in dungeons, particularly when one discovers that it takes a single hit to kill the 6th dungeon boss, which greatly surpasses every other boss in terms of ease, both prior and proceeding the fight. The mini bosses in the 6th dungeon (which turn out to be earlier bosses) are even harder than the main boss, so the reason for difficulty, or lack thereof, is ironically difficult to identify. Hell, regular enemies go down in more hits, and some are considerably harder to fight. One such type flies across the screen with you being totally vulnerable to them crashing into you, but them being invincible until they stop. Which they do infrequently and for short periods of time. It's enemies like that that make crossing Hyrule appear less enjoyable then it really is. I find myself planning journeys to dungeons that end up going completely in another direction just to avoid reaching certain screens with tiresome enemies, but it's this sort of thinking that makes the game feel more adventurous.
The game itself is undeniably great. Lots of replayability and fun for both first timers and veterans alike. It was an epic then, and even now it is a considerable journey to traverse. The faults are there, but at the same time the big key feature keeps slamming you in the face: nostalgia. If you can feel that, then the game is infinitely more enjoyable, although the original is probably the better option of choice for such feelings. Still, can't complain given that we now have such a classic as a portable title.
You play as Link, set out on a great quest to obtain the 8 pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom so as to stand a chance against beating the evil Ganon, and whilst doing so, save Princess Zelda. All in a day's work, really. No twists, turns or slight leans. A small introduction at the title screen and what can be drawn out of the manual is pretty much it. Standard affair by today's standards, but of course, one must acknowledge in the same way from the era it arises from. Don't be fooled by the numerous cave dwellers, most of them are worth a debt of 40 Rupees and a wasted bomb, and not a single ounce of plot.
It's a port of a NES title, one of the best looking games of its time, and is still regarded by quite a few for its graphics (going back towards nostalgia here). If a new title were released today with the same graphics, people would think it to be a joke; go figure. The sprites and landscapes stay true to the original NES title, although I believe that's the idea of a port.
Of course, even if I weren't to compare it to today's standard, there are some obvious flaws in the port. Ignoring the horrendous slowdown in certain dungeons (and even in certain caves with only a few sprites on show,) the occasional problem one will notice is the disfigured top of screen when passing from area to area. Surely in the port something could have been done to remove such eye sores. The slowdown has the redeeming feature of being a God-send in minimal Quests in rooms with harder enemies (such as the Dark Nuts). Removing this helpful guise, slowdown is only a lazy error of which shouldn't be too difficult to have been removed in the first place. There's a certain degree of which a classic must stay true to its original; slowdown and odd flashing pixels are not necessary for those feelings of nostalgia.
Even given its NES port format, the music here is still wonderful. Has all the charm of every Zelda game summed up into the single overworld theme as it hums hypnotically in the background. That theme alone is enough to cast players back down memory lane, regardless of what other Zelda titles they have completed in their lives. Dungeon music isn't quite as amazing as the overworld, but still nothing that makes you want to stab your ears until they bleed.
Veterans will also recognise the familiar zapping sound Link's trusty sword makes when it shoots beams at approaching enemies, followed by the satisfying death sound that follows you like a bad smell. Nostalgia fans will be pleased as the hauntingly echo of the Flute tune that crops up in Super Mario Bros. 3 rings through the GBA speakers. A nice affair through and through, but it does seem a little off from the original, as if something was lost in the translation from NES to GBA.
+ Decent replayability fused with total nostalgia.
- Same old flaws crop up.
+ A good foundation for the future.
- Rescue a Princess, kill the bad guy. Not even the originality of having an ape play the bad guy.
+ Old fashioned fun.
+ Awesome overworld theme.
- You spend half the time in the dank dungeons away from the theme.
First, graphic and story nuts by modern standards are pointed sternly to the exit now; this game will revolt you. The game is only enjoyable in context. If you can keep that in mind, then it is much more of an experience.
The added bonus besides having The Legend of Zelda ported to the GBA for portable fun is that it's incredibly cheap. $30 AU (roughly $10-$15 US, although I believe it retails for slightly higher in the US) is a good deal for such a title, for people wanting to relive the glory days, or for those newer players wanting to see what all the fuss is about. If it were as costly as a regular GBA title, then I might be a little wary of recommending it for anyone. For so little though, it's great value for money. If you're interested in owning such a Classic, then buy away; you probably have enough cash lost between couch cushions to purchase this.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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